Russia's Agricultural Ministry: Domestic Market Must Be Protected when Joining WTO

According to Sergei Dankvert, the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Russia, when joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Russia must protect its domestic agricultural producers. He made a statement to this effect while speaking at a joint extended session of Russia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of the Associations of Sectoral Unions on July 3.

The deputy minister said Russian products were quite competitive as compared with Western counterparts. Mr. Dankvert further said, 'Strange as this may sound, our weaknesses often become our strengths. Suffice it to say that our consumption of fertilisers is 40 times lower, and the use of pesticides and herbicides is 15 times lower than in the West'. Psychologically, this is our advantage in the eyes of end consumers. Mr. Dankwert also said he was sure Russia's agricultural producers would find themselves at even greater advantage if their Western competitors were not financially supported by their governments.

According to the deputy minister, the US spent annually about USD 19 billion supporting its agricultural producers, while the European Union spent up to USD 60 billion. 'In the meantime', he continued, 'we are blamed for our attempts to keep such support of our producers at USD 10 billion, never more than USD 15 billion. Russia, Mr. Dankwert concluded, must better defend its internal markets by increasing customs duties to 33%.

Mr. Dankvert believes that whatever the outcome of negotiations preceding Russia's joining WTO, the annual support of agricultural producers must remain at the minimal level of USD 7 to 8 billion, to pay for the purchases of new equipment. 'Our equipment base is at best half of that in any WTO member country', he asserted, '70% of what we have totally worn out'.

The deputy minister said he supported the preservation of export and transportation subsidies. If they are abolished, he believes, agricultural producers in various regions of the country will find themselves in unequal circumstances. This is because delivering products from Siberia is far more expensive than from the southern parts. Mr. Dankwert insisted that today was exactly the time to work out protective measures and defend them at negotiations. This is because according to the rules of WTO, after negotiations have been completed, a member country may abolish previously introduced norms but not introduce new ones. 'If we just keep giving in, no one will ever appreciate it. In the West everyone is very pragmatic'.

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